Depression Is a Risk Factor for Mild Cognitive Impairment

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Depression in Eldery People

In a new study, Mayo Clinic researchers found that cognitively normal, elderly people who developed depression during subsequent follow up were at increased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI). When viewed as a spectrum of cognitive functioning, MCI falls between normal brain aging and dementing illnesses, notably, Alzheimer's disease.

Investigators recruited 840 cognitively normal, elderly adults without depression and followed them for a median duration of 3.5 years. During the course of the study, 143 developed depression and were compared with the 697 who didn't. Of those with depression (defined as a score greater than or equal to six on an assessment tool called the short Geriatric Depression Scale), 13.3 percent developed MCI. Only 4.9 percent of those who weren't depressed went on to develop MCI.

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Although mild depression is a risk factor for MCI, "The good news is that depression is now a modifiable risk factor," says Dr. Yonas Geda, a Mayo Clinic neuropsychiatrist and the study's lead investigator. "There are treatments. There are medications. Psychiatrists, behavioral neurologists, family physicians and internists are now trained to manage depression. Additionally, social workers and psychologists are trained to treat depression through counseling. It's not something that you helplessly watch."

In their study, published in the March 2006 issue of Archives of Neurology, researchers also examined the association between depression and a particular gene known to be a risk factor for dementia.

Everyone has two copies of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene. One is inherited from the father and one from the mother. People with one or two copies of the

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